Two weeks ago, the U.S. Green Building Council (GBC) announced this year’s Greenest Schools on Earth at the World Green Building Council Annual Congress in Capetown, South Africa. Can you guess where these winning schools are located?
Based on criteria such as efficient use of resources, reduced environmental impact, enhanced health and learning, and emphasis on sustainability and resource-conservation education, the Waterbank School at Nyiro Primary School in Laikipia, Kenya and the Sing Yin Secondary School in Hong Kong were chosen as the Greenest Schools on Earth for their individual commitments to sustainability.
Kenya’s Uaso Nyiro Primary School’s unique Waterbank School building was designed by Princeton-based architects’ practice, Pitch Africa. The first of its kind in Africa, the Waterbank School was built with local materials and local labor as a low-cost school for poor regions in need of water. The school is equipped with a roof catchment system, which harvests rainwater into an underground cistern with a 350,000 liter/year harvesting capacity at the center of the school’s courtyard.
An integrated clay filtration system then purifies the rainwater for use by the students and for irrigation in the school’s vegetable gardens. Surrounding the cistern are ventilated classrooms, teaching gardens, a community workshop and a courtyard theater, all protected by a high wall that keeps out thirsty elephants and other unwanted guests.
The Waterbank School currently educates around 360 children and provides water for 680 children, all living on less than $1.40 per day.
Hong Kong’s Sing Yin Secondary School similarly serves low-income students, but differs from the Waterbank School in its urban location in the most densely populated district of Hong Kong. This School incorporates an organic farm, two green roofs, a bamboo corner and an aquarium into its operations.
Its buildings are oriented to enhance natural ventilation and maximize natural lighting, but also to block unfavorable weather conditions in the summer and winter. With a heavy focus on energy efficiency and low carbon emission, Sing Yin boasts features such as photovoltaic panels, solar hot water systems, wind turbines and LED lighting.
While the Greenest School on Earth prize is usually awarded to only one winner, the GBC judging panel had difficulty selecting between the two schools this year and, ultimately, chose to award both schools.
President and CEO of the Green Building Council commented, “We selected both of these schools because of what they say about one another and also about the scale and scope in the movement – they demonstrate that across the world, from community to community and from city to village, no matter where we learn, where we learn matters.”
Indeed, these schools serve as strong examples of how sustainability can be inextricably integrated into what and where students learn.